WASHINGTON, March 6, (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Friday sought to limit fallout from a U.S. resolution branding the World War One-era massacre of Armenians by Turkish forces as “genocide,” and vowed to stop it from going further in Congress.
Turkey was infuriated and recalled its ambassador after a House of Representatives committee on Thursday approved the nonbinding measure condemning killings that took place nearly 100 years ago, in the last days of the Ottoman Empire. A Democratic leadership aide told Reuters there were no plans “at this point” to schedule a vote of the full House on the measure, and a State Department official said this was the administration's understanding as well.
“We believe it will stop where it is now,” the State Department official said as the Obama administration sought to limit damage to relations with Turkey, a NATO ally crucial to U.S. interests in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The resolution squeaked through the House Foreign Affairs Committee 23-22 on Thursday despite a last-minute appeal against it from the Obama administration. The issue puts President Barack Obama between Turkey, a secular Muslim democracy that looks toward the West, and Armenian-Americans, an important constituency in states like California and New Jersey, ahead of the November congressional elections.
Similar resolutions have been introduced in many past sessions of Congress, but have never passed both the House and the Senate. In 2007, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed such a resolution but it lost momentum and never came up on the floor after then-President George W. Bush weighed in strongly against it.
After the committee's vote on Thursday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned of possible damage to ties with the United States.